In vitro fertilization (IVF) patients who have completed their family sometimes face a difficult decision about the disposition of their remaining embryos. Donation to another patient is an option to consider for unused embryos. Donating your embryos to other patients who are yearning to become parents is a very generous act.
Embryo recipients are UCSF infertility patients. They may choose to use a donor embryo because they have male and female factor causes for their infertility, previous failed treatments, or very low chances of success with other fertility treatments. They may be couples or single women.
Embryo donation is relatively new terrain, and there is much we still don't know about its long-term psychological, social and legal implications. While this is an ongoing area of active research, it is important for patients entering the process to be as well-informed as possible.
Both donors and recipients must understand that the recipients will be the parents of any child who may be born, even though the child will be genetically related to the donors. Children born from embryo donation will derive their innate traits from the donors, yet the recipients will raise the child, and thus will provide the nurturing environment in which the child will grow and develop.
It is common for donors to have concerns about another family, who they do not know, raising a child born from their embryos. Potential donors need to carefully evaluate and understand how they may feel about wondering if their embryos ever did lead to a child and if so, how the child is doing.
We recommend that recipients plan to share with their child, at some time in the future, the nature of how the child was conceived. This is important so that the child can have accurate information about his or her genetic history. Also, parents who don't share this information run the risk of the child finding out accidentally or from someone else in the future.
Both recipients and donors must understand that, someday, children born from embryo donation may want more information about their genealogy or genetic health history. In addition, some children may want to meet the donors and their families. It is important for donors to consider how they might feel about these possibilities.
Although we encourage donors to help the next recipient on our waiting list, donors may make personal restrictions regarding marital status, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
Some donors and recipients meet during the cycle preparation process. If you request a meeting, it will be arranged by our staff and our psychologist, Lauri Pasch, will attend.
If you wish, we will notify you if your embryos are donated and of the outcome of the initial pregnancy test. We cannot guarantee, however, further information about the outcome of the pregnancy or birth of a child.
It is important to keep in mind that most embryo donations are anonymous, meaning the donors and recipients do not know each other before the donation and do not exchange identifying information.
In some instances, we can arrange open donation cycles, where the couples meet and maintain a relationship, depending on the desires of donors and recipients. There is also the possibility that adult offspring of embryo donation will eventually want to talk to or even meet the donors, and possibly the donors' children. Patients can discuss these possibilities with our psychologist.
Once you decide to donate embryos, you will no longer be charged for storage fees. UCSF covers the cost of screening to determine suitability for donation. Patients do not receive payment for donating their embryos.
Donors sign a consent form stating that at the time of the transfer, they are relinquishing all rights and responsibilities regarding their embryos. There are no laws in California concerning embryo donation, although recent court decisions suggest that in the case of donated eggs and sperm, the recipient parents will be recognized as the legal parents. Patients are encouraged to consult with their own attorney about any further legal concerns.
The embryo donation team is available to help you decide if donation is right for you. Please call Sandra Abdel-Ramirez with any questions at (415) 885-3690.
Sandra Abdel-Ramirez, screening and matching coordination
Allison Chamberlaine, cycle coordination
Lauri Pasch, psychologist
Dr. Victor Fujimoto, medical director
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
Center for Reproductive Health
2356 Sutter St., Seventh Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 353-7475
Fax: (415) 353-7744